Access to fast broadband and a mobile phone signal is vital for rural communities and would create huge opportunities for local businesses, writes Stephen Kerr MP.
For too long, the governments at Holyrood and Westminster have been arguing about where power lies for the rollout of full-fibre broadband and full mobile coverage. Enough is enough. Both governments must put the constitutional games aside, work together for the good of people in Scotland, and develop an ambitious, but realistic, plan which allows every person in Scotland to be connected digitally in every part of Scotland.
The summer recess affords MPs the time to get out into their constituencies and, for me, this is a particular pleasure, representing a large beautiful constituency. Stirling is a truly stunning place from the lowlands and the Carron Valley, through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs to the rugged peaks of Strathfillan.
For so many people in my constituency, especially in these remote areas, they are not connected. Broadband remains an issue, but the mobile phone signal can only be described as appalling.
These are some of the best tourist places in Scotland and tourists want to access their mobile phones, but for locals it is far more than that. These are places where people do business, run companies and generate wealth. They are places people live their lives, sending their children to school, looking after relatives and working. They need access to this connectivity.
Mobile coverage is vital to 21st-century living. It allows people to communicate with friends and loved ones. It allows people to set-up businesses in rural areas and bring economic prosperity to communities all around the country. Another exciting development is the potential to receive health advice from the NHS on your phone.
All of this, however, can only be achieved if all of the country has full mobile coverage.
Unfortunately, and shamefully, this is not the case. One-third of the United Kingdom does not have adequate mobile coverage from at least one of the providers. This is holding our economy back. It is impacting the everyday lives of millions throughout the country. Simply put, this is unacceptable and must improve.
The governments in Westminster and Holyrood must take responsibility. It is the job of government to stand up for the interests of the people they serve. It is in the interest of our economy and in our personal lives to be connected digitally.
People may complain at the cost of implementing full mobile coverage in every part of the country, but the economic potential it would unlock would pay for this itself.
Improved connectivity, for example, will boost productivity as communications between teams could become more frequent and less disturbed.
Another exciting aspect of full mobile coverage would be the lease of life it would give to our rural economies. Due to the connectivity of the economy, people currently feel the need to move to cities and big towns to be connected to the economy. Rather than people moving to the economy, we should move the economy to the people.
Connectivity is increasingly important to the lives of people. We cannot allow some areas, rural communities in particular, to be left behind whilst others flourish. We are a United Kingdom, and the people of this country should be united in the benefits of connectivity. That is why Westminster and Holyrood must come together and develop a plan which ensures every part of Scotland has full mobile coverage.
Stephen Kerr is MP for Stirling